What's it take to get Five Diamond certified?

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Every few months, I receive a press release about another central station newly risen to the status of CSAA Five Diamond Certification, so I was surprised to learn from CSAA director of marketing and communications Celia Besore that not many central stations choose to go through the process.

There are approximately 2,700 central stations in the United States, which communicate and interact with law enforcement, fire and emergency service agencies. Of this group, fewer than 100 centrals have achieved Five Diamond status.

The CSAA offers the required training courses for operators and managers - which cover virtually all phases of central station communications with customers, law enforcement, fire and emergency services communications centers - at their Web site. In order to achieve Five Diamond Certification, each and every operator at a central station must have not only passed the course, but demonstrated: proficiency in alarm verification, which helps reduce false alarms; proficiency in communications with public service answering points, such as 911 and other emergency responders; knowledge of electronic communications equipment, including radio; an understanding of the codes and standards of such organizations as Underwriters Laboratories, Factory Mutual, the National Fire Protection Association and others; as well as proficiency in the area of emergency preparedness under a wide scenario of possibilities.

It all seemed simple enough. Intrigued why more central stations haven’t chosen to undergo this training offering from the CSAA, I decided to check it out and, over the holidays in December (when things are pretty slow in this industry), I underwent the Central Station Operator Level One online course. I now have a cool and official-looking certificate (which I display with pride in my cubicle) that declares that I have been recognized with “the designation of Central Station Operator Level One, thereby having demonstrated the requisite knowledge and skills by completing the CSAA Central Station Operators online course and examination.” I wanted to undergo this online course to gain a better appreciation of the rigors of the industry upon which I report.

The training is administered by the CMOOR Group. CMOOR principle Chris Moorhead spent some time on the phone with me and made sure I was ready to go. Feeling nervous and wondering if I would have what it takes, I jumped in with both feet. I found the course to be informative, well-designed, and challenging, as well as fun. The course is illustrated with numerous, informative flash animations, as well as well-dramatized end user-to-central station and central station-to-PSAP calls. Students are challenged throughout the eight modules to test their retention against “gatekeepers,” module-specific questions that must be answered correctly in order for the student to progress. Wrong answers result in having to go through the module again. Such a set up worked well with me and assured that I was paying attention and retaining information on an ongoing basis before the final examination, a multiple choice test that gave me anxiety-ridden SAT flashbacks.

But the SAT didn’t give me a certificate I could hang on my wall.

The course, which costs $180 (CSAA member companies receive a 30 percent discount on all purchases. Go to the member area of www.csaaul.org to obtain a discount code to use when purchasing this course), can be demoed for free at http://www.csaaalarmtraining.com/.